Of Usenet, IRC & A Proposed ‘Twitter Killer’

by Shelton Bumgarner

Only because this really bugs me do I keep writing about this. It just strikes me as odd that there are well-established design concepts that existed 20 years ago that we no longer have in public online discussion. I’m thinking specifically, of course, of Usenet and IRC. Usenet more than IRC for reasons that will become clear soon enough.

Compared to today’s online discussion systems, Usenet was both extremely difficult to use and surprisingly feature rich. The closest thing to Usenet today is Reddit, but I find Reddit useless and poor implementation of Usenet concepts. It seems pretty obvious to me that if Silicon Valley could stop drooling over AR and VR long enough to pay attention, they would see that an online discussion service that brought back the concepts of Usenet in conjunction with IRC would be both popular and profitable.

One of the things that killed Usenet 20 years ago was no one knew how to use it to make money because it was designed for discussion, not money. But if you learned from Facebook, it wouldn’t be too difficult to design something like Usenet that wasn’t so much like Reddit that people just shrugged and said meh. There was a lot going on with Usenet that we simply don’t have anymore. It’s really strange. Over the last 20 years, we too a quantum leap back in functionality when it comes to online discussion.

If you would somehow combine the concepts of Usenet and IRC in a big way, in a way that the masses could understand and enjoy, I think both popularity and profit would quickly come your way. Again, I have to note, I’m just a dreamer. I just daydream a lot and remember using Usenet 20 years ago and loving it and now in middle-age I miss it a lot. I long for the functionality of Usenet in an online service that aims to eat Twitter’s lunch. Twitter, unlike Facebook, seems really weak. In the past, I thought there was a chance to go head-to-head with this concept against Facebook, but after much thinking I realize it’s Twitter, not Facebook that a Usenet/IRC concept combo would be most effective.

Not only is it really weird that Usenet has vanished into the mists of time, but IRC has, too. Now, of course, in the enterprise, Slack exists. But 20 years ago AOL was making so much money from chat rooms they were able to buy Time-Warner. So, obviously, there is a use case for what I suggest. And it makes a lot of sense, at least to me, that the next step for the Twitter space would be live chat like what we found with IRC and AOL Chat Rooms 20 years ago. But there is a real chance that AR & VR is where all the money is going to and there’s no changing that.

And, yet, a little part of me can’t help but continue to daydream. I really did love Usenet 20 years ago and it would be so much fun to have that functionality available again. There is just so much you could do with the many features that Usenet had if you updated them to modern social media expectations. But, alas, I fear it’s going to remain just a daydream. Which, at least in my opinion, is too bad.

Author: Shelton Bumgarner

I am the Editor & Publisher of The Trumplandia Report

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